We communicate in every interaction we have. Communication occurs when we speak or listen (or text!), and in our body language, eye contact, and hand gestures. Here are a few statistics that will help you better understand how we communicate:
1. As much as 93% of communication is non-verbal.
In 1972, Albert Mehrabian published a communication “formula” attributing 55% of communication to body language, 38% to tone of voice, and only 7% to the content of the words. Many reviews have been published since, criticizing the use of this “formula”, which is largely due to misuse. In Mehrabian’s studies, he used situations where non-verbal and verbal messages were different, i.e. when you say “yes, this tastes good” while grimacing (1).
Using this research to say that content only accounts for 7% of communication regardless of context is misleading. However, without using these statistic as a hard rule, it gives us a picture of just how vital non-verbal communication is.
2. We can listen up to 3.6x faster than most people speak
On average people talk at a rate of 125-175 words per minute, but we listen at a rate of around 450 words per minute. This difference in speaking to listening rate creates time for our minds to wander (2).
3. We remember less than 20% of what we hear
In one study, participants watched the news and were asked to recall the news stories from the program. On average, they remembered 2.3 out of 13.3 items of news - that’s only 17%. This might be because short-term memory only allows us to recall a few items of information at a time (3).
This limited memory can also be aided by cues: such as, we may only remember 2 items from the news, but if we are given a list of common news topics, we can correctly select which topics were discussed and which were not (3).
4. Successful organizations are 2x as likely to keep communication simple
Every field of work and industry comes with its own complex “jargon”, or special terms that are hard for outsiders to understand 3.
In the context of business, only 21% of “average” companies report keeping their language simple and jargon-free. This is in stark contrast to high performing companies, who are twice as likely to use simple communication and limit jargon 3.
5. 32% of emails go unread, and 73% are not acted upon
Think email is a quick and effective form of communication?
While sending an email is easy, it’s highly ineffective. More than 30% of emails are not read, and more than 70% are not acted upon! (4)
6. Phone calls make up only 16% of our mobile communication
A phone is no longer a phone. Only 16% of mobile phone use is actually spent on voice calls. So what makes up the other 84%? Activities like browsing the web, texting, and emailing! (5)
7. 79% of people use their phones within the first 15 minutes of the day
Many people use their cell phones as alarms, but this only accounts for 44% out of the 79% of people who report using their phone first thing in the morning. Most people don’t make it half an hour without checking their messages, Facebook, or email! (5)
There are thousands of ways that we communicate, but looking at research and statistics helps us understand which methods are more or less effective under different circumstances.
3. Welch, 2015